Family Journal Musings


It’s like a path out of the mountains that you just finished. You look back and the rain clouds have obscured all signs of where you came from. But if you trace your route back you can find the places where one path separated, or joined, or veered off.

I got a letter from a cousin the other day detailing my family history back ten generations, something I didn’t even know was possible because my paternal African-American and Filipino sides had been so ruined by my ancestors having been slaves and a populace taken over in a colony. No records had been kept of family lines here. But my great-great grandfather in South Carolina, where my African-American family is Gullah, from Hilton Head Island, was a white Jew named Driesen. I going over the records my cousin was able to step back ten generations, 1621, to a couple in County Cork, Ireland, Teige and Elizabeth Cantey.

You can imagine my reaction… “I’m part Irish???”

I wonder what traces filter back down through the genes as one generation flows into the next. Is there such thing as genetic memory? Or do ghosts of a person’s experience and sights burn into the film of the next generation’s life plate? Does it mean anything that somewhere in the mists of time two Irish people nudged my existence with their children and then made the frightening crossing over to North America?

But there is something deeply comforting in catching a glimpse of the trail that led me here. All these years it has been a blur. I feel more connected to the earth now, as if my cells now lead further back and I am not just an afterthought.

9 replies on “Branches”

I am at least 1/32 Irish. Isn’t genealogy weird?

Nice new theme you got here. I really like the header – author photo combo. Your blogroll, though – man, you have URLs that changed or disappeared three years ago (including via neg). You’re even worse than Beth!


Damn you Dave! Just when I thought, “Phew! Got that blog update out of the way.”, you go looking too closely at the cracks (admittedly a finely honed skill that you put to great use in your own site) and reminding me of one of the many remaining gaps in the site. You are perfectly right, of course, and I updated everything this afternoon. There were a lot of outdated links in there! Didn’t even realize how many until today. And a few who are still blogging that I had lost touch with. It’s wonderful to get a glimpse of the network of personalities I’ve had the luck and pleasure and honor of getting to know over these last five years. Including you, of course!


Wow – it’s pretty cool that you are able to at least partially recover 10 generations worth of family history. From what you have been sharing on this site, you have quite the 21st century multicultural background…

Both of my family’s sides were rather local for the longest time around my hometown, so you would think that tracing the generations would be easy, but as it turns out most of them were farmers who seemed to be not much into writing. So there is surprisingly little information about anybody beyond three generations back and even there it’s already pretty fuzzy. Add to that a couple of family feuds that left some branches “never talking to each other again”, and there is not much of a family tree left!

I love the new logo/drawing in the header and the overall theme you are using for the site is really nice and pleasant. It feels like spring has arrived! 🙂


A few you missed: “a blog is a happening” is kaput. The cassandra pages is/are on Typepad now, (and Beth just celebrated her fifth blogiversary). Hoarded Ordinaries is/are at .

I find it more useful to include a dynamic blogroll of latest-post links using Google Reader. On the one hand, it probably frustrates readers who want a complete list of the blogs I like, but on the other hand, I never have to worry about outdated links! I did have an annotated Links page for a while, but it was work to maintain; I’m not sure many people ever clicked on it; and Google and Technorati tend not to count links from other than the index page, so bloggers I linked to that way got little benefit from it in terms of increased traffic, PageRank, or Technorati Authority (metrics I personally don’t care about, but I know other people do).

I like the sketch at the bottom of your sidebar – a visual reminder of the blog you had when I first started reading four or five years ago.


Wow, good to see you have been busy behind the scenes creating this beautiful site. I love the lighter grey colours and the black and white sketches. Sooo pretty and calm.

About the Irish part, and the roots part. It’s really nice to find out where you came from originally and imagine who those people were. I always wish I knew the stories, but it’s hard enough to even trace the lines. I’ve been to Ireland once and it’s the most beautiful place full of cottages and misty fields, old castles and a slow pace of life.

There are a large contingent of Scots and some Irish in the first European settlers of Nova Scotia and the musical heritage is wonderful. Lots of great fiddle music.

Since I’m going back to Canada next week, I’ll say “good-bye” now, though I plan to keep blogging from there and want to follow your steps toward creative independence. Hope the future will be full of great adventures for you, in the mountains and the studio, and the great wide world.


Miguel–The new site is beautiful! You are so talented…the drawings are so wonderfully expressive. It’s been so long since I’ve seen your drawings that I had forgotten about that ‘hidden’ skill amongst your way with words, photography, music, explorings and so much more…looking forward to seeing more!


As you can see from my name, I was very interested to read about your Irish family roots, which in fact is my family. My grandfather, father, uncle and brother had done extensive research in tracing the family back to the original Teige Cantey.


Most 17th c Irish people in the Barbados came as slaves sent by Cromwell’s troops. A good source is To Hell or Barbados by Sean o’Callaghan. The women and children were most often used as sex slaves. The men were field slaves. The probability for us Cantey descendants is that Teige was a slave, who survived and whose son George became an Anglican. That’s reason he (Teige) does not show up in the Barbados records. George his son was one of the smallest land owners on the First Fleet. But he was an adapter and his family became major figures in SC and GA.


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